Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Little Unexpected

Cooking with Wine_A Success Story!

I consider it a great success when I find a new recipe that I can slip into my weeknight rotation.  Weeknights are hard!  So much to do, so little time to do it.  I rely pretty heavily on leftovers to help me get through the work week with a full belly, particularly for my lunches, but for dinners, I like to cook something new and exciting at least twice a week.  It always gives me a good feeling to cook something fresh on the days between Monday and Friday, Iike I’m being extra caring to myself and my taste buds.

I’ve been doing really well with my weeknight cooking as of late, in part because all I want to do is burrow into the kitchen and cook, bake, cook, bake.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?  The kitchen is cozy and well-stocked, the nights are long, and the season’s brightness comes out of a skillet or the oven.  It feels natural to roast vegetables, make soup stock, roll pie crusts, and bake cakes.  With darkness settling over us early in the evenings, I don’t feel pulled outside by the light the way I do in the spring.  Right now, the kitchen is where I want to be.

Today’s recipe is a comforting version of beans and toast, with a delicious and Greek-inspired twist,  I really liked this recipe I made back in September, and I was curious to see if I could make a new dish by swapping some of the ingredients.  Out went the zucchini, fresh sage, and big tomatoes.  In came fresh mint, dried sage, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese.  I altered the cooking protocol a little bit, too, adding the cherry tomatoes to the sizzling onions and letting them grow warm and juicy until they collapse and mingle their tomato-ness with the onions and garlic.  I added the mint at the end to keep its flavor fresh and sprightly, an almost unexpected hint of spring and fresh green things.  And the feta just came naturally: tomatoes + onions + mint = Greek to me, so feta seemed like it belonged on top.

When piled onto thick-cut slices of buttered toast, this quick dinner is satisfying and delicious, neither light nor heavy in the belly, a little unexpected.  It deserves a nice little side salad, maybe something with spinach and oranges like this one, or maybe a grated carrot salad spiked with lemon and parsley.  I think I’ll be making this one all winter long.

White Beans with Onions, Cherry Tomatoes, and a Greek Twist

Adapted from this recipe

Serves 2

I forgot to tell you the thing that got me so excited about this recipe in the first place: the wine!  After that terrible evening with the leeks, I felt the need to cook something with wine that I would actually want to eat.  My long-term goal is to be able to cook with wine without consulting a recipe at all, and the only way to get there is to keep the wine bottle out and to keep cooking.  So that’s what I’m doing.

In this recipe, the wine is subtle—just two tablespoons—but I think it adds an extra layer of flavor, a subtle fruity-sour depth.  Matt and I had an illuminating conversation during his last visit that made me realize wine is a really strong ingredient.  With wine, it’s not a bad idea to use a light hand and then see how the dish turns out.  For example, last winter I made a vegetarian version of kickpleat’s (and Gourmet’s) Chicken Thighs in Riesling.  My version was pretty similar to the original, except that I used from-scratch white beans instead of chicken thighs.  The “White Beans in Riesling” was pretty good, but I’d like to try again, this time using less wine (maybe 1/3 cup?).  The flavor of the Riesling was nice, but I found that it overwhelmed the other ingredients a bit.

But that is for another day!  For today, we’ve got a simpler white bean dish for weeknight cooking.  Enjoy.

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 tsp. dried sage

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp. dry white wine, such as a Chardonnay, divided

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 16-oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed

4-5 smallish leaves of fresh mint, chopped

1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles

4 slices of thick-cut bread, toasted and buttered (for serving)

1)  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until the onion is soft.

2)  Add the garlic, sage, and some salt and pepper.  Cook for 30 seconds or so, then add 1 tbsp. white wine.  It should sizzle and bubble a bit.  Add the tomatoes and the remaining tbsp. of wine, then immediately cover, turn the heat down to medium, and let everything cook for 3-5 minutes.

3)  By this time, the tomatoes should have started breaking down into the onion-garlic mixture.  Add the white beans, stir everything around, and let them heat up for a minute or so.  Turn off the heat, add the mint, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4)  Place the buttered toast on two plates, then add a big scoop or two of the white bean mixture.  Divide the feta between the two plates and serve immediately, perhaps with glasses of the Chardonnay you used in this dish?  I recommend you eat this dish with a knife and fork.


Denise Michaels @ Adventurous Foodie said...

In all the excitement and magnificence of the cooking we all do for the holidays - it's important to remember that most of our meals are pretty average meals.

To me that means it's important to squeeze something at least moderately healthy in between all the rich, decadent holiday fare. Yet, we want hearty, stick to your ribs at the same time because baby it's cold outside.

My "go-to" dish to accomplish this feat for the last few years has been Ratatouille. Disney movie aside it's a comforting dish of veggie deliciousness and you can add Italian sausage (there are turkey and chicken varieties available) to ramp up the protein level for Carnivores.

Honestly though, as much as I love Ratatouille I get tired of it and need a little variety. This dish seems like it'll fill that void quite nicely. After all, anything with Feta cheese can't be bad. *wink*

Rosiecat said...

Hi, Denise! Ratatouille sounds like an awesome go-to dish--hearty, savory, and healthy. Yum. But believe it or not, I've never had ratatouille! I should change that soon.

This dish borrows a few of rataouille's ingredients, but it's much simpler and much faster to throw together on a weeknight. And I'm totally with you on the feta--it's an amazing ingredient!

Shannon said...

ooh, this does sound fantastic! i often resort to roasted root veggies and squash... who knows where i go from there but often just they themselves are comforting enough with a poached egg!

Rosiecat said...

Mmm, I love eggs and potatoes! Or eggs and broccoli, or eggs and I'm right with you on the "add an egg" bandwagon. Basically, if dinner has a protein, a carb, and some vegetables, I'm sold. Simple math :-)